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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Sculpture
6.3 Capital
10th c., 2nd half
Vatopedi Monastery
Marble, height 30 cm, base diam. 21 cm, abacus 34 x 34 cm


The Original New Testament

The capital, which is in excellent condition, belonged to the old marble chancel screen in the katholikon. It was re-used, together with three similar ones, on the columns supporting the dome of the Chapel of the Hagia Zoni. The decoration consists of a variation on the early Christian double-zone Corinthian capital with heads of birds and animals. In the lower zone, which has become very narrow, the acanthus leaves have been replaced by a row of Sassanian-style palmettes in very low relief. In the upper zone, as in older capitals, the four corners of the basket are occupied by spread-eagles in very high relief. The spaces between them are filled with purely mediaeval subjects, perforated bosses covered by a rosette, a composite lemniscus, or a cross. In the centre of the concave edge of the abacus is a protruding fan-shaped ornament.

The plasticity of the figures and the high standard of the execution directly link this and the other three historiated capitals from the katholikon templon with the mullion capitals in the Church of the Virgin in Lips Monastery (907) in Constantinople, while the stylised palmettes are similar to those on a capital in the Archaeological Museum in Bursa.

For further stylistic comments and questions relating to the dating of the Vatopedi templon, see nos. 6.2, 6.4.

Bibliography: Pazaras 1995 (1), pp. 15-32, particularly 20, 24, 30, fig. 15.

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10th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

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